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14 Utterly Fantastic Books for Fall 2020

By kileyturner
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These books push the limits of imagination, unbound from realism and conventional understandings of time and place, exploring humanity's deepest fears and longings. They are also some of the most exciting books this year.
Molly Falls to Earth

Molly Falls to Earth

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook

An enthralling debut novel by Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist Maria Mutch that is an inventive exploration of time, absence, and desire.

I feel in some strange place.
In late January 2010, choreographer Molly Volkova has a seizure on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk.
As Molly experiences the singularity of the seizure over the course of seven minutes, she is haunted by her past: memories of love and infidelity, thoughts of her family and her work, and of the city itself. She also refle …

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In Veritas

In Veritas

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

"Things that are and are not, she thinks, and the dog is a snake."

In this fantastic and fantastical debut, C.J. Lavigne concocts a wondrous realm overlaying a city that brims with civic workers and pigeons. Led by her synesthesia, Verity Richards discovers a hidden world inside an old Ottawa theatre. Within the timeworn walls live people who should not exist--people whose very survival is threatened by science, technology, and natural law. Verity must submerge herself in this impossible reality …

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Excerpt

- 1 -

I am writing this for Verity because she cannot write it for herself.

Verity takes pen to paper; two minutes in, her hand begins to shake. She crosses out a word. Rewrites. Crosses out another. Makes an illegible notation. When her fingers spasm and she drops the pen, she crumples the paper and closes her eyes.

She sits at the old typewriter and presses keys with irregular, staccato care. The black lines on the page make her squint. She types a deliberate paragraph before she rips the paper from the machine and shreds it.

She sets a dusty cassette player on the desk and presses 'record.' The tape spools and she sits in awkward silence, throat working. She says "Santiago," and chokes on it. She throws the tape in the garbage.

She touches the computer only once. She pokes hesitantly at the keyboard, averting her eyes from the glowing screen, and exits without saving her file.

She presses herself into the darkest corner of the bedroom closet, and she rocks a little, back and forth. She cannot breathe.

She will look at this and see only all the ways in which it is incomplete.

But this is for Verity. I'll try.

SEPTEMBER

Verity tells her stories in present tense. She says it lends a sense of immediacy--like watching a play, or characters on a screen. She says it recreates the 'now'.

So this is Verity, walking down the street beneath overcast clouds and the barest promise of sun. She is still a young woman, but old enough to have a hint of crow's feet at the corners of her eyes. Her shoulder-length hair is fine and split-ended, seldom combed. It is an imprecisely muddy shade of teak.

Verity is the drab sort of bleached that comes only with fading and time. She is wiry but solid. Her eyes are a grey like sunlit fog, simultaneously bright and opaque, but she seldom meets anyone's gaze. She has a habit of twitching at nothing, and her lips move as she walks. Though she is clean and nondescript--her black coat well made, her white sneakers unmarred--people sometimes give her spare change.

Today she is watching the sidewalk, and the cyclist who nearly mows her down swears vehemently. Verity keeps walking. She is, in fact, paying attention, but the city is a barrage around her. The sidewalk shadows melt beneath her feet. Each glass tower she passes chimes in her ears. She wavers, briefly, before a window display that tastes of iron and caterpillars; she stares at the rainbow of handbags and perfectly placed leather boots, but her attention skitters to the side and she swallows the raw scent of rotting vegetables.

Only Verity's world is so dizzying. The cyclist--now halfway down the block, still spitting righteous anger--sees only a woman and a cracked sidewalk, downtown edifices looming glassily above on a cool morning. Brown leaves scatter beneath the tires of his bicycle, and he thinks nothing of it. To Verity, the autumn breeze is a firefly flicker making the street sparkle like rain, but the day is dry and dim and she trudges onward through the minute swirls of light.

When her phone vibrates in her pocket, she stops to answer it and presses her back to a crumbling brick wall. A torn paper flyer scrapes her shoulder, advertising the cancellation of some aborted concert.

"Jacob," says Verity, gently. Her voice is as grey as her eyes. She hasn't looked at the caller ID.

"Should we be accountants?" His light tenor in her ear comes a little fast, words as strings impatiently plucked.

In contrast, Verity is quiet for a long moment. She purses her lips; her brow furrows. "I... what?"

"Should we be accountants? Quick--this guy wants me to do his taxes."

"We, um--we tried that."

"We did?"

"Last year. You did it wrong and had to pay that woman nine hundred dollars."

"Oh. Yeah." Jacob's disappointment glides, spider-light, over Verity's skin. She raises a hand and swipes at her cheek, her eyes tracking the air three feet behind a passing taxi.

"We could--" she begins, but he has already interrupted.

"No, you're right. It's cool. Hey, don't forget the milk, okay?"

Verity brushes her thumb across the screen and slips the phone into her pocket before she resumes walking.

The route is familiar; she is not distracted by the sea-salt taste of the concrete beneath her feet. She turns right at the bakery, pacing under faux-antique lamp posts and the glare of tattered flyers (missing kitten!; missing child!!; ONE NIGHT ONLY SALE!!!). It's nearly noon, and she must share the remnants of the morning with drivers and cyclists and the occasional laughing child.

The crowd thickens at the edges of the Byward Market, near vegetable stands and stalls filled with maple syrup, flowers, and beaded crafts. A magician is setting up near the corner of Sussex and George; he has a faded, collapsible table, a deck of cards, and a dog. The spot he has chosen is shaded by a stone archway between two restaurants--it's a curious choice for a busker, a dim recess on an already shadowed day.

More, the magician and the dog are both in black: the magician with curling jet hair and a worn t-shirt, jacket and jeans and high boots like an urban pirate, and the dog just a sea of darkness lit by yellow eyes. The magician's hands are dusky and deft. The dog is the size of a wolf. The magician cocks his head to the left, and so does the dog. The magician fans a deck of cards in his right hand; the dog lifts its right front paw. To Verity, they both smell like sulphur and taste like three hours past midnight, so she stops.

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The Swan Suit

The Swan Suit

edition:Paperback

Blending banalities of everyday human routines and dilemmas with elements of fairy tales, magic, the macabre and the downright inventive, Katherine Fawcett’s fiction is anything but predictable.

In this collection, reimagined folktales appear alongside stories entirely new, serving to defamiliarize us from the undeniably odd tales we continue to pass down generation after generation, and lend a vague familiarity to the stories of Fawcett’s invention.

One of the three little pigs launches a lin …

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Girl Minus X

Girl Minus X

edition:Paperback

Fifteen-year-old Dany is trying to survive with her little sister, Mac, in a world collapsing under the weight of a slow, creeping virus that erodes memory. As their identities slip away from them, the late-stage infected are quarantined by the Ministry of Disease Control in prison-hospices, military camps where some of Dany's family have already been taken.

When a new and more virulent strain of the disease emerges and Dany begins to experience symptoms, the sisters are cast into crisis. As they …

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The Hush Sisters

The Hush Sisters

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Sissy and Ava Hush are estranged, middle-aged sisters with little in common beyond their upbringing in a peculiar manor in downtown St. John’s. With both parents now dead, the siblings must decide what to do with the old house they’ve inherited. Despite their individual loneliness, neither is willing to change or cede to the other’s intentions. As the sisters discover the house’s dark secrets, the spirits of the past awaken, and strange events envelop them. The Hush sisters must either …

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Different Beasts

Different Beasts

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Winner, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Speculative Fiction

A bear runs amok in a luxury hotel. A daily swim at the local pool becomes a question of life or death. The champion of a border wall faces an unexpected adversary.

The twelve stories in Different Beasts ask what it means to be both human and monster. Shape-shifting waifs, haunted stuffies, scavenging drones, insectoid demon-gods, and mutant angels all come to life in this wildly imagined debut. As do broken soldiers, disgraced politicians …

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Afterlife Crisis

Afterlife Crisis

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : humorous

 

For readers of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and P.G. Wodehouse, and fans of The Good Place – a tongue in cheek fantasy that imagines Isaac Newton in the afterlife.

Where do you go after you die? Detroit.

“Finally, a hitchhiker's guide to the hereafter.” — Corey Redekop, author of Husk

Something’s rotten in the afterlife. At least that’s how it seems to Rhinnick Feynman, the one man who perceives that someone in the afterlife is tugging at history’s threads and retroactively unrav …

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Excerpt

 

Preface

 

It’s okay if you don’t believe in the afterlife.

 

The people who live there don’t believe in you, either.

 

Afterlife Crisis is the second story in the Beforelife universe, a world you might think of as the afterlife. The people who live there wouldn’t think of it as the afterlife, though, because they don’t think that anything comes before it. They call their world Detroit. Almost all the people who live in that world have forgotten their pre-mortem lives, and think that people simply pop into existence by emerging from the Styx and getting on with eternal life. Anyone who remembers having lived a mortal life is shoved into an asylum and treated for Beforelife Delusion.

 

This raises a question. Should you read the first story, Beforelife, before dipping into this one? A short answer is “no”. A slightly longer answer is “yes”. But another answer, and a more correct one, is that it depends on what you want to get out of this book. Having read the previous paragraph you know all you need to know in order to follow the story of Afterlife Crisis. You’ll realize that many of the characters in the book are historical figures who now live in the world of Detroit without remembering who they were in the mortal world. You’ll understand that the people of Detroit fail to realize the true nature of their world, and that the people being treated for Beforelife Delusion are the only ones who get what’s going on.

 

There are other mysteries, though, that you’ll have a better chance of piecing together after reading both books. Who is Abe, the all powerful leader of Detroit? Why are some people in Detroit, like Abe, able to reshape the world to suit their whims? Why does Rhinnick Feynman, the narrator of Afterlife Crisis, believe he’s a character in a novel being penned by a cosmic Author? Why do some people reincarnate? And why are there so many Napoleons? Clues about these (and other) mysteries are liberally besprinkled throughout both books. And while you’ll be able to piece many of them together by reading Afterlife Crisis on its own, those who really enjoy detective work might have a lot more fun by sifting through two volumes filled with intersecting clues.

 

My mother says you really ought to read both books. She loves them both.

 

Randal Graham

 

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